Long Duration Lake Enhanced Snowstorm

Duluth, MN

January 25 to 27, 2004





Here are the snow totals:
27.1 inches at National Weather Service, Duluth MN
21.8 inches near my residence

The variation in snow totals was considerably greater than indicated by these two measurements. The lower elevations of far west Duluth received far less snow then areas in the higher elevations and farther east along the lake shore. Persistent lake enhancement and orographic lift during the storms duration greatly boosted snow totals along and inland of the ridge crest. The opinion of this observer is that nearly half of the snow was generated off the lake. As is the case with lake enhancement however, the snow off the lake was aided by lift from the storm system. So the two are actually connected. Lower elevated sections of East Duluth also did quite well with a favorable east wind off the lake. The western end of the city extends beyond the tip of the lake and cannot get a good trajectory and fetch off the lake with an east wind.

Snow began late morning on Sunday the 25th and continued into the overnight hours early Tuesday morning the 27th. Periods of snow produced by the storm system and periods of snow of the lake combined to keep the snow falling with either one being more dominant at different times. The best intersection of system snow and lake snow occurred from shortly after 9 PM on the 25th to about 10 AM on the 26th. Moderate to heavy snow from both sources resulted in frequent 1+ inch per hour snowfall rates. A few breaks in accumulating snow occurred during which only very light snow or flurries fell.

The storm transitioned into primarily a lake event by late evening the 26th. A strong band of snow streaming into the head of Lake Superior dominated the snow production from late evening to about 3:15 AM. Weaker bands of snow off the lake and light snow from the storm system also continued at the same time. Snowfall rates again reached 1 inch per hour. Snow diminished during the rest of the overnight hours and finally ended as diamond dust flurries by 6 AM Tuesday morning the 27th.

The snow from this storm was very fluffy, especially the last part which was dominated by snow off the Lake Superior. Large flakes composed of loosely connected and particularly large dendrites contributed to the fluffiness.


The following records were set at the National Weather Service:

This storm was the third greatest single snowfall on record. The top spot is held by the great Halloween Blizzard of 1991 with 36.9 inches. The snow actually fell from October 31st through November 2nd.

The January, 2004 storm also produced 23.2 inches in 24 hours, the third greatest on record. The record is 25.4 inches on December 5th to 6th, 1950.

The 27.1 inches contributed to making January, 2004 the second snowiest January on record at 42.3 inches. The record is 46.8 set in 1969. Note that 6.5 inches fell on February 1st to 2nd, 2004. Near miss on breaking the record!


Storm images compliments of the National Centers for Environmental Information

12 noon CST January 25th, 2004


6 PM CST january 25th, 2004


12 AM CST January 26th, 2004


6 AM CST January 26th, 2004


12 noon CST January 26th, 2004


6 PM CST January 26th, 2004


9 PM CST January 26th, 2004


12 AM CST January 27th, 2004